Motorstorm Apocalypse is an impressive game in many respects. It’s technically sound, visually impressive and has a deep level of customization that can satisfy anyone who wants to feel like they’re making progress when they play. It’s such an impressive game in these ways that I have to feel bad when I say you probably shouldn’t play it.
Those who have played previous Motorstorm games would know what to expect with Apocalypse. The series is known for the vast array of vehicles all competing at once, and it’s also known for many different paths around the track. Bikes can find high, narrow routes, big rigs slog through muddy patches and street vehicles have to fight it out on the well-trodden middle. That’s still here in Apocalypse, but this entry’s new direction makes that less successful.
The direction? Well it’s now fairly infamous, given its poor timing. See, the game’s set in a city in the middle of an earthquake. We’ll leave the PR implications of that alone, but the gameplay ramifications aren’t great. The entire concept feels like the developers played Split/Second once and decided they wanted that game in their game. Sometime in the race (usually during the last lap), the track reshapes itself with falling buildings and crumbling roads. This goes wrong in two ways. First, with a free-form game like Motorstorm where there are always multiple paths to take, the changing paths are more frustrating than refreshing. You can learn these changes and train for them, but it’s not the kind of thing you can pick up and enjoy the first few times. Second, the game has always had the veneer of an arcade title, but the physics are brutally unforgiving. This wasn’t really an issue in wide-open deserts and jungles, but in Apocalypse, there are little pipes here, cement hunks there and slightly uneven surfaces everywhere. If you hit one, you will crash, and they’re in areas where you wouldn’t expect things like that. This would be even easier to take if there weren’t very similar-looking things that are intended for you to drive and smash through to great effect.
All that said, the game’s still not a bad one. You may not be able to play it at parties with people who aren’t used to it, but it’s sure to gain a following of dedicated players online. The customization is great, too. You pick your vehicle for each class, and customize each one with a host of paint jobs, parts and logos. The addition of perks online is great too. Borrowing from games like last year’s Blur, players can choose slight enhancements for online play and adjust things to their play style. It’s sure to make die-hards very happy.
The single-player campaign has a lot more to it this time, too. Rather than simple difficulty levels, the game has three separate campaigns, each with their own story. This is great, even if the style of the game and the style of the cinematics seem at odds. After all, the core game is high-drama, with intense score and visual realism. (That score, by the way, revolves around this one fifteen-second crescendo that gets really annoying really quickly. It’s avoidable in the race, but be prepared to hear it on every single loading screen ever.) The story is told as a motion comic, though, following incredibly stereotypical characters like a guy who decided to compete in this thing instead of playing pro basketball and an old guy who is supposed to be tough but ends up just feeling goofy. That said, this isn’t Heavy Rain or Uncharted, so the throwaway narrative is okay. (And totally skippable.)
Motorstorm Apocalypse is very cool looking, and if you have 3D you may finally have your showpiece game. There are just a few design choices holding it back, and oh, do they hurt.
Pros: Gorgeous game, deep unlocking and customization
Cons: Frustrating tracks, awkward motion comics